One of the most important challenges for human, social and technological progress is certainly to improve the quality of life of people with a crippling, degenerative motor neuron disease such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

In this context, the latest technologies should address the difficulties in interacting with patients whose ability to communicate is impaired by their condition.

The TEEP-ALS research project (Empathic and Expressive Technologies for ALS Patients) performed by the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology), is supported by Fondazione Roma with the clinical and scientific contribution of Fondazione Sanità e Ricerca.  

This project aims to create advanced assistive technologies for ALS patients, in order to meet their social interaction and communication needs through innovative interfaces and associated robotic technologies.

This research will advance the state of the art of brain-computer interface (BCI) control, enabling a greatly enhanced patient experience during their use of assistive communication and social interaction systems.

The TEEP-ALS technologies are empathic since they will be able to recognize the user’s state of mind, according to psychophysiological constructs of emotion and motivation, adapting them both to the detection of user's commands and the feedback they receive, in order to ease the recognition of the commands.

The TEEP-ALS technologies are ‘expressive’ since they will be able to mediate the user’s intention to communicate with others and to control the devices by tracking and interpreting eye movements and physiological signals.

The contribution of the empathic modules will result in an engaging multi-signal user interface with adaptive feedback optimized for the user's limitations, skills, needs and goals.

The main challenge of this new user interface is to assist ALS patients’ communication process considering the important role it plays in their social relationships and life.     

The project has a person centred approach and meets the need to optimise interaction between patients and devices, in order to encourage ALS patients to use an interactive technology which has been designed bearing in mind their opinions and those of medical staff and families. 

Consequently several solutions, based on ALS patients’ choices and inclination, will enable these users to communicate in their daily environment through technological mediation, enhancing their experience.